Letter from the USAC Chair



September, 2009



Dear Colleagues,


IODP has entered an exciting time and finally realized the vision of conducting simultaneous expeditions on the Chikyu, the newly refurbished JOIDES Resolution, and mission-specific platforms. In addition to these drilling activities, we have also begun working toward creating the next drilling program. This sets the stage for the upcoming INVEST (IODP New Ventures in Exploring Scientific Targets) conference in Bremen, Germany.


The community will undoubtedly bring great science ideas to INVEST, but we need to go further to secure future funding. Although scientific ocean drilling has enjoyed many years of great success, this does not guarantee that the opportunity will continue beyond 2013. Bear in mind that the Apollo program budget declined sharply in the years following the 1969 moon landing. The continuation of scientific ocean drilling depends now more than ever on promoting our past successes while presenting compelling objectives for the future.


The “Input to INVEST” given by the International Working Group Plus emphasizes the importance of demonstrating societal relevance in the science plan for the new program. In the U.S., the Obama administration has focused its scientific priorities on climate, energy, and health. The specifics in other member countries will differ, but we can safely assume that all funding agencies must justify the benefits to those who bear the costs.


While the societal relevance of scientific ocean drilling may seem obvious to us as participants, we must make these connections clear to those outside our community and articulate how our research benefits society. For example, we know that ocean sediments and crust comprise an extensive archive of past changes that give us clues as to what we face in the near future. We also know that ocean drilling provides a window on active subseafloor processes that impact global cycles and trigger life-threatening hazards. To help move these important issues forward, USAC members have prepared a short paper presenting examples of societally relevant issues that we believe benefit from ocean drilling efforts.  Download White Paper


The program for INVEST includes a specific theme on earth-human-earth interactions, and all working groups under every theme will pay attention to societal relevance. Whether or not you will attend the conference, we encourage you to start thinking about these issues and to put forward innovative ideas for future drilling. If you cannot attend INVEST, please contribute your ideas through USAC members or other colleagues who will be there. You can also influence the direction of the new drilling program by continuing to submit new and innovative drilling proposals to IODP.




Liz Screaton
USAC Chair
on behalf of USAC